Saturday, June 14, 2014

On the Coffee Table: The Day After

Title: Barefoot Gen, Volume 2: The Day After
Writer and Artist: Keiji Nakazawa
via Goodreads
Barefoot Gen is a semi-autobiographical manga series about the Hiroshima bombing and its aftermath.  I shared my thoughts on Volume 1 here.  The story is powerful and deeply personal.  Any doubts one might have that sequential art (a.k.a. comic books) can tackle serious subject matter will be profoundly challenged by this series.

Volume 1 ended with the bomb dropping.  Volume 2 begins with Gen and his mother struggling to piece their lives back together on the most basic level.  Gen's father, older sister and younger brother were all killed when their house collapsed.  Gen's mother went into labor in the midst of the horrible day and there is now a baby sister who will starve if the family can't find food.  In the desperate search for sustenance, Gen is confronted with horrors at every turn: skin falling off of burn victims as they wander the streets; others suffering from sudden, mysterious ailments we know in historical hindsight resulted from radiation sickness; corpses everywhere.  No fictional post-apocalypse can compare.

The series is difficult reading.  Cruelty is a prevalent theme in this second book, on both macro and micro levels.  The devastation of nuclear war is clearly so much worse than what I can conceive of intellectually.  The high quality of the work would probably be enough to keep me coming back but I also feel a responsibility as a human being to learn from the sins of history. 


  1. The only question I have is what all this looks like in what appears to be the traditional manga style.

    1. Here's a link to a much more thorough discussion, including artwork:

      The art is occasionally quite gruesome. There is not blood and gore on every panel - that would be too much. But the images are powerful.

  2. Looks nice. Reading a difficult book every so often is great for the mind.

    1. Yes, this one definitely challenges - makes you uncomfortable in all the right ways.

  3. I have not read this manga but I know about it.
    As I said on my Friday post about Godzilla, I grew up with "The Bomb" WWII
    and the bombing of Pearl Harbor and The US Arizona.
    But I think today no one knows about growing up with the remembrances of the war, and the umbrella of the bomb hovering over their everyday life. We had bomb drills when I was in school. Davis Monthan Air Force Base is in Tucson. Plus the testing in St. George Utah and New Mexico.
    I have watched "Grave Of the Fireflies" and that wiped me out.
    I am much older than most of the bloggers I follow. Plus a much of my family lives in Japan.

    cheers, parsnip

    1. I think you'd get a lot out of this series, parsnip. As you know, the war and occupation shaped modern Japan and the gory details are essential.